James Smith III slipped me a copy of Gang of Fools at the New York Comic Con last fall. It's an immediately impressive package, a fully printed 96-page book, spine and everything. It's also completely packed with comics. James' pages rarely have less than six panels, and they regularly have nine, and each one of them counts. The artist packs each unit with as much storytelling he can muster, allowing his characters to be chatty, but also maximizing the visual punch. In terms or style, his sketchy drawings work with Paul Pope and Jim Mahfood as a base aesthetic, but with a thin line more reminiscent of Jim Rugg. The combo gives the cartooning a sense of immediacy, but the expressive characters and the heavy detail of his futuristic world suggests there is far more consideration than that. Smith must work hard to make it look so easy.
Gang of Fools takes place in an overcrowded urban environment sometime in the near future. Living space is precious, as is information and mobility. The title is no joke, Gang of Fools has a huge cast of pornographers, gangsters, artists, and hustlers. Its central subjects are a group of twenty-something friends working the system and navigating the high-tech social structure in hope of carving out their own space in things. The ultimate center is Aditi, an Indian-American girl working as a messenger to raise her rent. Not the smartest move: the two most dangerous things in future living is traveling and real estate. Getting from place to place to drop off a package, crossing turf lines and jammed roads, is bad enough even when your landlord doesn't want you dead.
Smith builds a complicated storyline with crisscrossing plots, all of which converge, diverge, and then converge again. As Gang of Fools progresses, the technique grows more frenzied, the narrative more choppy, and Smith cuts from scene to scene faster and faster. Honestly, some of it can be a little hard to keep straight, and Gang of Fool kind of ends more than it really finishes in any real satisfying sense, but I was thoroughly caught up in the madness nonetheless. Gang of Fools is a fascinating debut from an intriguing new talent.
Gang of Fools began life on Act-i-vate, and this book and more was serialized there. You can also read more of James' comics at his own site. Some of the unfinished feeling might come from the fact that more was coming.
Read an interview with James at Talking Comics with Tim.
I'm not entirely sure the best way to go about getting the books, but the Facebook group might be a good way to start looking.
Current Soundtrack: The Go! Team, Rolling Blackouts; Christina Perri, Lovestrong
e-mail = golightly at confessions123.com * Midi-Confessions123 * Criterion Confessions * Live Journal Syndication * ComicSpace * Last FM * GoodReads * The Blog Roll [old version] * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon
All text (c) 2011 Jamie S. Rich